New town, new city, new way of living. At age 15 I knew nothing about the world to be honest but going solo surely had to be better than the crap I’ve known growing up.
I took the first steps of contacting a local homeless charity who arranged a meeting for me that day. I went in to see a lovely woman names Jo who wrote everything down and made numerous phone calls and arranged appointments for me to be seen immediately. I finally felt like somebody cared and that things were going to be ok.
Being only 15 I had to go to the Local Children’s department to talk to an officer and discuss my estrangement, she wrote me a letter and gave me a few copies so that I could use it to take to the benefits office or housing units to help me to get a property.
The lady from the homeless shelter came with me to all these various places to get things in motion and even rang around some landlords she was in contact with to get me a place to stay for the night. At around 4pm the call came that a landlord had a bedsit available for me to go too; I was actually quite excited, my own little room to call mine, fully private, I can do whatever I want when I want.
Jo took me up to the bedsit and met the landlord with me, after signing documents and things he showed me to my bedsit. Room 10. It was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be and had a single bed. The loo was down the corridor and the shower was in the room next to me. To get into my room I had to use a key card so I carried it in my pocket! The last thing i wanted was to be locked out after going to the loo!
The next day I went to meet Jo back at the homeless shelter and she was there to greet me and offered me a hot drink. I kindly took her up on this offer as I hadn’t had a hot drink for a few days now. We sat down and went through some forms I needed to fill out to help me with getting an income so I could afford rent etc. I explained to Jo how I only had £20 that I stole from my aunties purse 2 days earlier to make sure I could get some food. She offered me some food that she had upstairs, lots of tinned goods etc, I was so grateful! I also explained how I would love to start at college now that I had finished my GCSEs at school, and we filled out a college application form for a 2 year course in Multimedia. I was so excited; this really was a brand new life.
The landlord let me stay in the bedsit and we arranged for me to give him £70 a week for rent when my money came through. I now had an address and so the benefits office could forward me on my claim money each week. I had an interview at the college and subsequently managed to get a place on the course starting in September. It was now July and I remember thinking – I am going to do everything I can to enjoy my time before I start college. I did this to the best of my ability but receiving £100 each week and £70 going on rent didn’t leave much behind to play with. The bedsit was also not my ideal but I couldn’t afford anything else and so I had to put up with sharing a house with 15 other people with 3 toilets between us and 2 showers.
September came around really quickly and before I knew it I was getting ready for my first day there. It started with a presentation in the hall welcoming us to the college and then we went off to our relevant classrooms. Sat in the classroom surrounded by people I didn’t know soon got the better of me and I ended up having a full blown panic attack but luckily my college tutor was able to help me out. We all went around the classroom introducing ourselves and I found I was daydreaming about who I was going to make friends with and how our friendship would pan out. Sure enough break time came around and as I smoked I headed outside where I saw all the other college smokers go and noticed a few people from my course, I went over and asked if I could stand with them. From this day these were my college friends that I would spend every day with. It was brilliant.
In February after being in the bedsit for 7 months I couldn’t take it anymore. My mental health was really slipping and the living conditions weren’t doing me much good. I found myself talking to one of the college welfare officers and I told her my life story pretty much – this is where my mental health really started to go downhill from this point on. The college got me back in touch with the homeless shelter who were able to get me another place to stay, this time a proper flat and I was so excited to move. The welfare officer helped me to move my stuff about a week later and got me settled into my new place. I felt much better now I had a whole flat to myself, I didn’t have to share any of the facilities.
I was spending less and less time attending college and at the time I couldn’t see how bad my mental health was – I was self-harming daily, wouldn’t wash or shower, hardly ate anything and made no effort to contact my friends. The days I did go to college I spent most of my time meeting with the college welfare officer who would help me to get through each day. But it was getting increasingly more difficult by the day. She soon had me in contact with a councillor and we would meet regularly every week. Her name was Pat. Pat was the only person I had ever told up until then about the sexual abuse. It took me so long to trust her and talk to her about any of my past but when I finally opened up she was horrified. She could clearly see now why I had so many complex mental health issues and why I was struggling on a daily basis. The welfare officer used to sit in with me during my sessions because I couldn’t bear to be alone with her because of my anxieties, so now the welfare officer was aware of my past and my childhood and the shit I went through.
Since she found out all about this she seemed to care for me a lot more, she would always be there for me to talk to and sit with me to help me with my college work. I was spending almost every day with her and I was unable to be in the classroom. I would last maybe 15 minutes in the classroom before I got so overwhelmed and ended up rocking back and forth in my chair until the welfare officer came to get me and take me down to her room. I was almost childlike – my every need now had to be met by an adult as I was unable to look after myself. This also extended to home too. My flat wasn’t the relaxing sanctuary it should have been; instead it was dirty, untidy and actually quite disgusting. I was finding it so hard to look after myself never mind looking after the property too. I stopped taking the rubbish out and it was mounting up in bin bags in my kitchen, I didn’t do the dishes and plates and bowls were left in the sink for weeks at a time. I very rarely showered and slept in the same bedding for months. I know how disgusting this is but I physically couldn’t look after the flat.
The landlady used to visit every week to collect the rent but I wouldn’t let her into the property, I would stand in the doorway blocking her view so that she couldn’t see in. I knew that she had to give me 24 hours’ notice before entering the property so I knew she wouldn’t see the extent of the dirty hovel I was living in. Although I don’t think 24 hours would have made much difference, there would be no way I could clean the whole flat in 24 hours, heck I probably couldn’t clean it in 24 days!
This cycle of life continued, hardly going to college and if I did I wasn’t in my lessons, I continued to live and contribute to the state of my flat and my own personal hygiene and also became so isolated from never talking to friends. I remember one day receiving a text from an unknown number simply saying ‘hey, how are you?’ I had no idea who it was so messaged something snotty back and then later found out it was a college student from my course, let’s call him J. Me and J spend a whole load of that night texting back and forth and this was the first person I had connected too in months. He persuaded me to go into college the next day and because he made me feel so good I told him I would turn up. Unlike usual I didn’t go to the welfare office I went up to my classroom and there was J smiling at me, reserving a seat next to him. I felt a rush of every emotion I think but then went and took my place next to him. A lot of people were looking at me and probably wondering who I was as I hadn’t been to the classroom in such a long time. My tutor was pleased to see me and pleased to see I had made friends with J.
J and I grew closer, and I was attending college more regularly, I was still spending most days in the welfare office but I guess that was better than not attending at all! My flat was still a state and nothing had improved there but I was feeling a little happier than previous months. J finally asked me out one night and I was over joyed, my first proper boyfriend! We met up at the weekend and he came to my flat. I tidied the living room to make it presentable and closed all the doors to the other rooms so he couldn’t see what a state it was. We had been flirting over text and I was a bit apprehensive that he would want to sleep with me. I didn’t know if I wanted this or not but still took the time to shower and make myself look presentable. He came round that weekend and we spend ages laughing and joking, listening to music but then I also divulged information about my past too him and explained why I spend so much time in the welfare office. Things were going really well. We kissed for a bit and then things got a bit more heated and soon enough his hands were all over me. This was going to be the first time I had slept with somebody – excluding the abuse.
Unfortunately him touching me just instantly gave me flashbacks to the abuse and I no longer wanted to have sex with him. I kept saying no but he was getting more and more forceful. I don’t know if he thought I was playing around or something but me saying no didn’t stop him. I had tears in my eyes as I begged him to stop but he just kept kissing me and touching me. I manage to get out and say I needed the loo and spend the next 10 minutes crying in the toilet unsure of what to do next. I was determined that when I went back out I was going to tell him I didn’t want to do this, but as I opened the bathroom door, he was there in the doorway. He started to kiss me and then pretty much dragged me back to the sofa. Before I knew it I was naked and he was on top of me. I couldn’t get away from it; I just had to endure it. I was so glad when it was over and I explained to him that I wasn’t comfortable doing that and he was really apologetic and sorry, he didn’t realise that I didn’t want too. This made me question if I had done something to make him think that was ok with it and concluded it wouldn’t happen again. Next time he would hear my cries.
College continued and I was still seeing J when i made it to college or he came round mine but unfortunately every time he came to my property he wanted sex and if he didn’t get it he was becoming more forceful. Dragging me around, slapping me, putting his hand over my mouth etc. But he was my boyfriend and I truly believed this was normal. My mental health was all over the place still and I didn’t want to be with J any longer but I didn’t have the strength to tell him. I found my way out though, when a guy from the local shop gave me his number and asked me if I wanted a drink with him sometime. I messaged him straight away almost, I had a way out, and it felt like he had rescued me. I met up with him that night at his place and we got on great. It was perfect. We kissed goodbye and I prepared myself to go into college the next day to tell J it was over.
He didn’t take the news very well and got really angry and held me up against the wall, but another student saw it and broke him away from me. We never spoke again after this and I very quickly got in a relationship with the new guy, let’s call him C. Mine and C’s relationship was great, we met up almost every night at his place and if we didn’t we would text constantly. We ended up sleeping with each other fairly quickly but this time it felt right and felt great. For the first time I enjoyed it and allowed him to do things.
A few months into our relationship we started to have little arguments about things and would fall out. I put it down to us spending too much time together and so I distanced myself slightly from him. Soon enough the arguments were full blown and wild accusations would come from C saying that I had cheated on him and I was sleeping with other people. It got to the point that if I didn’t reply to his messages after 5 minutes he would ring me constantly or come round to see what I was doing and who I was sleeping with. The truth was I hadn’t cheated on him and never had the intention too. I left college and manage to get a simple admin job and he would walk me to and from work ensuring that I didn’t meet anyone along the way. If it was that he couldn’t meet me he would ring me for the whole journey until I was home. He soon started to check my phone and read every message I sent to people. He never found any evidence of me talking to others because there was none, I didn’t speak to anyone at all apart from him but then this made him believe I was hiding things from him and deleting the messages. Once again I was completely miserable and spent a lot of time self harming and simply crying.
One day when I was at his he went to make a hot drink, I was in his bedroom and he left his phone. I was so pissed off of being accused all the time I decided to see if he was hiding anything from me. I knew I had to be quick but also knew I would hear him walk up the stairs. I opened his messages app on his iPhone and saw a thread of messages between him and an unknown number. I clicked on it and scrolled to the top, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. ‘I can’t wait to meet you tomorrow’, ‘do you want to go out in my car somewhere’, ‘thanks for last night, you were so good at it, I can’t wait until next time’ the string of messages went on and on and all centered around C and this person meeting and sleeping with each other. I was shaking and my adrenaline was pumping, how dare he accuse me when in fact it was him that was cheating on me. I scrolled down a bit more and there I saw a completely disgusting sexual picture. Except this made me even more confused and upset, he had been cheating on me with a man!!! I put his phone back where he left it and with adrenaline still pumping I confronted him as soon as he walked through the door. We argued for a while and then he turned it around on me being in the wrong, how I shouldn’t have read his messages etc. We ended up screaming and shouting and then out of nowhere I felt this pain in my face, he had punched me.
I was so shocked I just stood there, frozen to the spot. ‘Are you going to fuck off then bitch or you will get another!’ without a word I ran out of his house and ran pretty much all the way back to my flat. What on earth had just happened, how could I of never seen that he had this side to him? I lay in bed for the rest of the night, just crying into my pillow. My phone was on silent and missed quite literally hundreds of missed calls and messages from C. Eventually I heard a knock at my door and I got out to see who it was. The minute I opened the door he stormed in demanding me to talk to him and demanding I told him who I had round because I didn’t answer his texts. I pleaded with him I didn’t have anyone round but he didn’t believe me. Instead he grabbed me by my throat against my living room door and screamed and shouted at me. I couldn’t help but cry. Begging him to stop but then he started to punch me in my stomach, spit on me and pull my hair. He finished his tirade by having extremely rough sex with me and forcing me to perform oral. I was completely battered and bruised by the time he had finished and left and I lay naked on my bed silent, unable to cry, unable to think and unable to move.